Over its history, WCW has seen many different championship belts and even more different champions. Especially in its early years, the company treated all of the belts with consummate respect. When WCW split from the NWA, they had their work cut out for them to establish legitimacy. Almost all of the champs were deserving workers given meaningful reigns. But nothing that good could last. Hogan and the New World Order turned the “Wrestling” part of World Championship Wrestling into their plaything. After Sports Entertainment became the flavor of the month, and Vince Russo rose to booking power, the WCW belts would become a punchline.
For these shameful champions, the belts matter. A bad World Champion is a bigger deal than the Television or even short lived WCW Hardcore title. But those other titles will still show up here. There are also guys on here that are current and future Hall of Famers. Despite their greatness elsewhere, that doesn’t make their WCW reigns in question any better.
Non-wrestlers competing in big PPVs is heresy enough, but when they actually win a title, fans rightfully go ballistic. With that in mind, there are only a small number of those entries on this list. WCW’s booking became so nonsensical and erratic, that even great wrestlers could end up in storylines this foolish. While WCW certainly has one of the most infamous bad world champions in all of wrestling history, there are several other interesting entries on this lineup.
15. Ron Simmons – World
So how could the first African American world champion be one of the most shameful? Well, it’s easy when you’re WCW. This should have been a landmark moment and reign in pro wrestling history, with a great story and build, but the reality was the exact opposite. After an injury derailed a Sting vs Vader feud and PPV main event in 1991, Simmons won a raffle to face champion Vader, and won the title that night. He had a couple of underwhelming defenses on PPVs against the same comedy wrestlers he was feuding with in the mid-card until Vader regained the title at a House Show. A HOUSE SHOW. He deserved better.
14. Disco Inferno – Television
There should be no explanation necessary with just the name of Disco Inferno, but here goes. The character was a complete failure as a good wrestler, funny comedy character, practically everything he ever attempted in the realm of sports entertainment. But this was enough for him to become a two-time champion in 1997. They were thankfully brief reigns with “defenses” mostly ending in no contests. Even though the Television Title was decidedly low-tier, it at least had some stature as a wrestler’s belt with all the frequent title defenses. But WCW hadn’t yet begun to disgrace its Television title, but we’ll get to that part later.
13. General Rection / Bill DeMott – United States
This title continues to this date in the WWE, but it had a long run as WCW’s 2nd-tier singles title first. Several future world champions and great talents held it. And also, Bill DeMott. At his best, he was comedy jobber Hugh Morris, veteran of WCW’s C-shows, and the first victim in Bill Goldberg’s streak. Then, at his worst, under Russo, he was General Hugh G. Rection, two-time US champ. The only thing worse than his pun name was the quality of his matches.
Now, Bill DeMott has shame of a different sort after a training scandal at the WWE Performance Center. He was forced to resign after a flood of accusations of physical abuse and racial/homosexual slurs became public.
12. Kurt Angle – World
Despite his current limbo and health problems, Kurt Angle is a surefire hall of famer. He’s won almost every professional title in all of wrestling. Among those was the WCW Title. His was a garbage reign where he traded the title back and forth with Booker T on free TV. It seemed to be nothing more than a personal middle finger from Vince McMahon to WCW to put the belt on one of their stars briefly before shooting it back to actual-WCW-wrestler Booker T. Even though WWE did defeat WCW, it was still shameful to treat their world title like that, especially given their future plans of unification.
11. Scott Hall – Television
Scott Hall is one of the biggest stars to never win a World Title, but he racked up the other belts, including this run as the WCW TV Champion. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t bring this title up to the prestige of his runs as Intercontinental champion. After winning the TV Title from great champion Booker T, Hall tried to give the title to Kevin Nash before just simply throwing it in the trash. The worst part of this is that this isn’t even the most shameful Television Title reign, and it’s not even the first time a WCW Title would be thrown in the trash.
10. Jim Duggan – Television
For every title that gets thrown in the trash, someone has to get it out of the trash, right? After Scott Hall came Hacksaw Jim Duggan, the final and worst Television champion. To give him credit, he did defend the title on the WCW D-level programs of the time. But Hacksaw Jim Duggan was never more than a comedy jobber in either the WWE or WCW, and his run turned the belt into a joke. During Vince Russo’s last gasp “reboot” of WCW, the belt was just forgotten. An ignoble end to one of WCW’s best gimmick titles.
9. Creative Control – Tag Team
WCW has a long history of great tag team wrestling, but unfortunately, this team added nothing to that history. Creative Control, better known as the Harris Twins, were a clumsy shot at the WWE, named Patrick and Gerald after Patterson and Brisco, respectively. The only thing worse than their gimmick was their wrestling ability, but that didn’t stop them from getting three short reigns in the waning months of WCW. They mostly broke up after joining the nWo 2000, but unfortunately the Harris would continue to devalue tag divisions as a part of TNA until their retirement.
8. Bret Hart – World
Bret’s entry here is, again, not a reflection of his legacy as one of the best wrestlers off all time. After jumping from WWE to WCW following the infamous Montreal Screwjob in 1997, it would have made sense to push Bret into the main event. However, he’d only challenge for the U.S. Title until late 1999, when WCW was beginning to fall into anarchy. The tournament where Hart won the vacant World Title was a high point, but the subsequent feud with Goldberg included the sloppy, brutal Starrcade match in which Hart suffered several career ending concussions. Hart would amazingly get a second reign shortly after that as a heel nWo 2000 member, but after just a handful of sloppy, interference-ridden title defenses, it would be vacated again due to the prior injuries.
7. Eric Bischoff – Hardcore
No explanation necessary. The words Eric Bischoff next to Hardcore should be enough to make the ECW start spinning in its grave. Although the WCW Hardcore Championship was, at its best, a cheap knockoff of the WWE version, it still had a surprisingly fun run in the undercard during the late years of WCW. But there was no reason for the famously weaselly and weak Eric Bischoff to get involved in the wrestling side of things. Although he gave the title away after only one day, it was still a pretty insulting reign all around. The final indignity? The man Bischoff pinned to win the title was Terry Funk.
6. David Flair – U.S.
Some people think talent skips a generation, but it’s possible that it skips an entire gender. While Charlotte is currently one of the top young stars of the Divas Revolution, David Flair is only a footnote in the shameful history of WCW. David would get his first and only singles championship literally handed to him when Commissioner Ric awarded the vacant title. After that, the younger Flair would turn in a handful of defenses with heavy interference from his father and Arn Anderson. And just as nepotism and backstage politics started his reign, they would end it. When Ric Flair left WCW after a spat with Eric Bischoff, David would immediately drop the title on the next night of Nitro, and never really get near singles success again.
5. Kevin Nash – World
Big Sexy won his first WCW World Championship in dramatic and shocking fashion – being the first man to pin Bill Goldberg at WCW’s flagship Starrcade PPV. But despite that huge storyline, WCW managed to suck the excitement out and shame their most prestigious title in one fell swoop. Just eight days after Starrcade, Nash lost the title with the “Fingerpoke of Doom”, where he unceremoniously laid down for Hollywood Hogan to start his 5th world title reign. Even though Nash himself would win the title a few more times, this first reign overshadows the rest as one of the main turning points in WCW’s demise.
4. Scott Steiner – World
Scott Steiner is undoubtedly one of the top tag team wrestlers of all time. His resume with brother Rick Steiner speaks for itself. But as a singles wrestler in the twilight of WCW – things got weird. Steiner ballooned with steroids and adopted the “Big Poppa Pump” persona with all white hair in stark contrast to his prior long black locks.
On paper – Steiner had a good run as WCW World Champion. He was champion for four solid months, with some respectable defenses. However, those months were the decline and final death of WCW as a company. Steiner was the captain of the sinking ship, and no matter how you slice that, he would go down as the final huge failure of a WCW World Champ.
3. Chris Benoit – World
Before any of his WWE exploits, and also well before any other shameful acts – Chris Benoit was a rising star in WCW. Despite his TV and US title reigns, Benoit had never gotten even close to the World Championship. The worst kept secret in wrestling was his planned departure along with his friends Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero.
However, WCW couldn’t just let him go. In a last ditch effort, Benoit won the vacant World Championship at the Souled Out PPV, hoping that would persuade Benoit to resign with WCW. Unfortunately, putting the title on someone with no contract isn’t exactly the best idea, and it didn’t sway Benoit one bit. If that isn’t the most shameful thing a champion can do, I don’t know what is.
2. David Arquette – World
Oh yeah. This is what is worse. What happened here wasn’t really David Arquette’s fault – he had a wrestling movie to promote, and is definitely a huge fan. But it was the fault of Vince Russo’s desire to always push things further. Celebrities wrestling is an old tradition. They usually have some sort of heavy gimmick type of match or star-studded tag team affair to give them another celebrity to pummel. They usually don’t wrestle for the world title. But Arquette did, and he somehow fell on the champion.
If that wasn’t enough, the insult to injury was Arquette not only holding on to the title, but defending it in a huge PPV main event (Slamboree) right after. It was at least a triple threat match and he never really was in any position to win over the actual wrestlers. But it was still shameful for him to be on that huge stage and wrestling for that huge prize. The worst part was that the stunt never really generated much buzz for WCW or Arquette’s movie.
1. Vince Russo – World
The only good thing that could be said about Vince Russo’s reign as champ was that he immediately gave up the title. But the bad was that he went over one of the best rising stars in WCW at the time – Booker T – and well, just everything else. Also, Russo isn’t the first person with creative control who chose themselves to win, but it feels much sleazier to do it as the head booker.
Also, Russo is always going to get this top spot just for his legacy. Looking back through this list, he’s responsible for so many of these awful decisions. Just for that common denominator factor – Vince Russo is clearly the king of WCW shame.
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